A big plate of vegetables with incredible depth of flavor, this roasted garlic and cauliflower puree topped with sautéed asparagus and broccolini perfectly captures the shifting spring season.
A note: I took a pause last week to allow space for the reckoning and renewed grief that came along with the Chauvin verdict and the continued police violence toward Black and brown Americans. I believe strongly that Black Lives Matter and that white folks like me need to do all we can to disrupt the status quo.
This plate of sautéed asparagus and broccolini with roasted garlic and cauliflower puree is just what I crave on a stormy spring evening – umami-rich vegetables served a few ways, with depth, char, and a hint of heat.
Bridging the Food Season
The recipe marks a bridging of the food seasons, which are well behind the actual season which currently feels like full-on summer. We’ve nearly made it to the moment when all I want to eat are tender lettuces, asparagus, and strawberries straight from the Saturday market. But right now, the hardy cruciferous vegetables that got us through the long winter and early spring can have their moment just a little longer.
Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower: Simple and Delicious
I’ve long had an affinity for pairing roasted garlic and cauliflower, and this puree is a simplified version of this cauliflower dip from a few year back. Here, the flavor comes just from deeply roasted cauliflower, golden roasted garlic, a little lemon, and good olive oil. If pureeing it all feels like a fussy step, you can skip it and pile the roasted vegetables right alongside the sautéed ones.
And speaking of the sautéed vegetables, asparagus and broccolini are a nice match – the buttery asparagus plays nicely on the more robust, slightly bitter broccolini. When searing them, you’ll want to watch closely for the moment they relax in the pan and get them out before the vibrant color fades. Working in batches is the best way to get it right. As you cook each batch, add a pinch of sea salt and red pepper flakes to make sure each spear and stalk are seasoned perfectly.
- 1 medium head cauliflower, core trimmed and cut into 2-inch florets
- 2 heads garlic, root end trimmed with garlic still in papery skin
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 bunch asparagus
- 1 bunch broccolini
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 - 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons water, plus more to achieve
- Sea salt
- Red pepper flakes
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Arrange on a large baking sheet. Tuck the garlic, cut side down, between the florets. Bake 20 minutes, flip cauliflower, and cook 10 - 20 minutes longer. Keep an eye on the garlic, if it’s a deep golden hue and yielding to the touch, remove it from the tray while the cauliflower continues to cook. Set garlic and cauliflower aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, push the roasted garlic cloves out of the papery skin.
To sauté the vegetables, heat a large cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium/medium high heat (the pan should be hot, but not smoking). Add a tablespoon olive oil, and then half the broccolini. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring and flipping often, until broccolini is tender, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat for remaining broccolini. Likewise, cook the asparagus in two batches, adding more olive oil as needed. Add a squeeze of lemon to the cooked vegetables.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the cauliflower and garlic. With the food processor running, add olive oil and 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and water. Taste, and add up to a tablespoon more lemon juice and water, plus sea salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
To serve, spoon the puree onto a large platter. Use your spoon to create big swoops with peaks and valleys. Drizzle with olive oil. Top puree with the sautéed vegetables. Finish with a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.